Ethical dilemma, otherwise also known as moral dilemma, is a situation where an individual is confronted with a choice to be made between two options none of which is however, ethically acceptable. The Information and Communication Technology has become an indispensible part of the personal, social as well as professional life of an individual. However, it is undeniable that there are various instances of ethical dilemmas arising in a world that depends too much on the world of Information and Communication Technologies, and hence there has been an increasing rate in the number of various cyber crimes, such as hacking, plagiarism, software piracy, violation of Intellectual property rights, and many more (Holm & Ploug, 2012). However, this paper intends to focus on the emerging ethical issue in the IT world- Digital Plagiarism.
It is needless to say that the growth and development of any nation largely depends on the acquisition of knowledge by its students, and in case the students fail to educate themselves completely, the future of the nation awaits darkness and ignorance. Internet in itself was invented with the purpose of helping humans acquire and expand knowledge, and to understand what lies beyond their own horizon of knowledge (Ferro & Martin, 2016). However, many students are doing nothing but exploiting the resources found online, for the purpose of enriching the content of their writings. Plagiarism is not completely a sin; however the students who are seeking help of online sites, and finishing their assignments without attempting to have an in-depth knowledge about the topic of their assignment, are committing serious offence. In an article published in The Guardian, the writer claims that the PhD students have been using the Internet, simply for copying and pasting the information found via various online sites (The Guardian, 2016). However, PhD is an University degree that places a lot of onus on the shoulder of a student. He is supposed to contribute ideas to the academic world that are novel and innovative. This is the reason why academic plagiarism has already been labeled as a criminal offence, and the authority of each educational institution needs to introduce stringent policies against it (Sonfield, 2014).
In the article, the writer reports that he came across several PhD thesis papers which used lines from other poets, and yet did not acknowledge their names. What was even more shocking was that a student even succeeded in publishing his book of poems, with a doctorate title, and yet his poems were nothing but plain imitations from secondary sources, without any sort of acknowledgement. This whole act of plagiarizing is equivalent to the act of stealing, and it s important to analyze and evaluate the cause behind the increasing rate of digital plagiarism in the academic world. Using the internet for copying and pasting information, and for finishing off with assignments real quick, has become a common trend among the school, college as well as university students. However, this is absolutely unacceptable that the students, who are expected to acquire knowledge, by learning and researching through books, tend to use the shortcut to pass in their exams. According to a report submitted by the NEC Research Institute, there are more than 1.4 Billion pages found online, and most surprisingly 25 more pages are added each second (McMenemy et al., 2014). From this statistical data, the wealth of information a student is exposed to, while writing an assignment, can be easily understood. While evaluating the situation of digital plagiarism in the academic world, three ethical issues have to be understood:
Cyber-plagiarism, also known as patchwork plagiarism, is definitely an unethical issue emerging out of a student’s over-reliance on the world of ICT. Whenever a student is confronted with a difficult assignment paper, he prefers to type the name of the assignment topic, and in a short while, he can gain access to various relevant online sites. According to a survey conducted by Center for Academic Integrity, 38% of the undergraduate students resort to the use of online sites, for writing their assignments (Martin, 2012). Using the internet for collecting information and for incorporating new ideas in one’s own individual assignment is absolutely justified and acceptable. However, a student should always be penalized in case he directly imitates and copies the writings of others, using their quotes, without acknowledging the help availed.
In most of the cases the students are found claiming that they had no idea that plagiarism is an offence, as they consider it as a part of their in-depth research work. It often happens that when a student visits a webpage, he fails to understand the source of the material, and hence he thinks the whole information is being mechanically produced, with the purpose of helping him finish his term paper. However, it is important for the educational institutions to make the students aware of the importance of originality of writing. They should understand that internet is meant for consulting in case the student lacks sufficient understanding, but it is in no way meant for reproducing the same thoughts, ideas and sentences used by another writer. The use of plagiarism detection software can be useful in reducing this ethical issue in academic writing. Further students should be made aware that there is always a variety of inauthentic sites, which may provide fake information that can misguide a student in his process of academic learning (Bakhtiyari, 2014).
With the advancement in digital technology and the growth of the internet access, the students are everyday exposed to a diverse amount of information. While this has a positive effect as far as the student concerned intends to use it for broadening his own knowledge, it can also be harmful if he chooses the “cut and paste” technique to achieve academic success. Here, the teachers need to make the students aware of the ill-effects and unethical issues involved in the process of digital plagiarism.
Bakhtiyari, K., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A., Shakiba, M., Zavvari, A., Shahbazi-Moghadam, M., ... & Mohammadjafari, M. (2014). Ethical and unethical methods of plagiarism prevention in academic writing. International Education Studies, 7(7), 52-62.
Ferro, M. J., & Martins, H. F. (2016). Academic plagiarism: yielding to temptation. British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioural Science,13(1), 1-11.
Holm a’b, S., & Ploug, T. (2012). Ethical Issues in the Development of ICT Mediated Support for Daily Living in Adolescents with Autism—the Ethics of.Touching the Future Technology for Autism?: Lessons from the HANDS Project, 15, 71.
Howard, R. M. (2016). Plagiarism in Higher Education: An Academic Literacies Issue?–Introduction. Handbook of Academic Integrity, 499.
Martin, D. E. (2012). Culture and unethical conduct: Understanding the impact of individualism and collectivism on actual plagiarism. Management Learning, 43(3), 261-273.
McMenemy, D., Poulter, A., & Burton, P. (2014). A Handbook of Ethical Practice: A practical guide to dealing with ethical issues in information and library work. Elsevier.
Sonfield, M. C. (2014). Academic Plagiarism at the Faculty Level: Legal Versus Ethical Issues and a Case Study. Journal of Academic Ethics, 12(2), 75-87.
The Guardian,. (2016). I Reported Plagiarism in a PhD, But My University Ignored it.www.theguardian.com.Retrieved 14 August 2016, from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2016/jul/08/i-reported-plagiarism-in-a-phd-but-my-university-ignored-it
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